The UN appeals court has found that Radovan Karadzic intended the Srebrenica genocide and ruled to raise his sentence to life imprisonment, saying that the 40-year sentence issued by the trial judges was too soft, taking into account the seriousness of his crimes and the weight of his responsibility.
"The Appeals Chamber sentences Radovan Karadzic to life in prison," presiding Judge Vagn Prüsse Joensen announced in a final verdict.
Karadzic, 73, was found guilty on 10 counts, including genocide, in March 2016 by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which has been replaced by the IRMCT. The former leader immediately filed an appeal, refusing to plead guilty and saying that the ruling was based on "rumours". The prosecution also appealed the ruling, insisting that Karadzic, who governed Republika Srpska between 1992 and 1996, should get a life sentence.
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Accusations Against Karadzic
Karadzic was arrested in 2008 in Belgrade after having been on the run for over a decade. He has faced charges since the end of the Bosnian War, which erupted between Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats in 1992, when Bosnia and Herzegovina proclaimed independence amid the breakup of Yugoslavia.
While he had initially faced 11 charges, one count of genocide in seven Bosnian municipalities was dropped, since prosecutors failed to provide enough evidence. The second genocide charge — related to the Srebrenica massacre that ended in 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks being killed in July 1995 — remained in place.
Meanwhile, Karadzic's defence argues that he is not guilty and that the ruling should be annulled over incorrectly found facts and procedural violations.
"I think that the ruling can be commuted, taking into consideration that his link to the Srebrenica events and the level of his responsibility is one of the main charges. During the court process and especially now, in our appeal, we have argued against this count most actively. Personally, I believe that we have managed to refute any link between former President Karadzic and the events in Srebrenica", lawyer Goran Petronijevic told Sputnik.
He added that he expected some other counts to be rejected as well.
"However, the court practice of The Hague's tribunal shows that sometimes, when one of the non-major counts is rejected, the sentence is not reduced", Petronijevic added.
The panel of judges at the IRMCT Appeals Chamber, which is handling Karadzic's case, has been partially changed upon the defendant's request, causing a slight delay in the appeal hearing. Theodor Meron, former ICTY head and the presiding judge in Karadzic's appeal, has withdrawn from the appeal.
"This man obviously had anti-Serb views, and even the judges of the tribunal said that he was putting pressure on the court, under instructions by the US embassy", Petronijevic said.